Practice pays off for Patriots CB Dennard

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Practice pays off for Patriots CB Dennard

FOXBORO -- Rookie cornerback Alfonzo Dennard made his NFL debut on Sunday against the Denver Broncos. And he made a few big plays to break up critical passes from Peyton Manning.

His presence on the field Sunday exemplifies exactly where the Patriots are with their secondary. They're looking to improve, even if it means giving a previously injured rookie his first opportunity against a quarterback like Manning.

But Bill Belichick's reason for giving Dennard an opportunity didn't just stem from team needs. It also was a reward for the improvements Dennard has made in his overall game during practice.

As Belichick pointed out on Wednesday, Dennard has become a better football player, day-by-day.

"He performed well in practice," said Belichick. "He's had some opportunities the last couple weeks. He missed some time there, earlier in the season. And he's had some opportunities at practice, on the practice squad. That led to some opportunities on defense, running our stuff. And it looked like he showed that he was prepared, that he knew what to do, and that he was competitive doing it. We sprinkled him in there a little bit during the game, and he was able to be competitive."

Brady on Thomas criticism: 'I love Earl . . . Wish him the best'

Brady on Thomas criticism: 'I love Earl . . . Wish him the best'

Tom Brady was getting hit from all sorts of different angles on Saturday night. Not only was he dealing with Texans pass-rushers Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney, he was also catching social-media shrapnel from Earl Thomas and Ray Lewis. 

Thomas was adamant that Brady had an easy road every year because he played in the AFC East. Lewis, meanwhile, got on Brady for complaining to officials when he thought they should have called a penalty for roughing the passer. 

On Monday, joining WEEI's Kirk and Callahan program, Brady responded to both. 

"I don't think I've ever been one to, you know, say something negative about anybody," Brady said of Thomas, who missed the end of the season with a broken leg. "It's just not my personality. I love Earl. I think he's a hell of a player. I really wish him the best in his recovery."

When it came to Lewis' critique, Brady acknowledged he complained to the officials. And he noted that it might've worked. Soon after he threw a fit when a flag wasn't thrown, the Patriots did pick up 15 extra yards when Clowney was tagged with a roughing-the-passer call.

"We had a lot of battles with Ray on the field," Brady said. "And yeah, I would love to try to make sure the officials are paying close attention. If we can get one of those 15-yard penalties, those are important."

Brady on Brown Facebook video: Wouldn't go over well with Belichick

Brady on Brown Facebook video: Wouldn't go over well with Belichick

We know how Bill Belichick feels about social media. For years now he's been openly mocking the names of different platforms. 

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How then would Belichick feel about one of his players streaming his postgame speech live to an online audience of thousands? Probably not great. 

"That's against our team policy," Tom Brady told WEEI's Kirk and Callahan Show on Monday morning. "I don't think that would go over well with our coach."

Brady was referencing the video posted to Facebook Live by Steelers wideout Antonio Brown late Sunday night. With over 20,000 fans watching, Brown streamed the postgame locker room prayer as well as Tomlin's speech. 

Tomlin called the Patriots a-holes, and he made note of the fact that because the Steelers-Chiefs game had been pushed to Sunday night the Patriots had a day-and-a-half more to rest and prepare than the Steelers did. Then when he spotted a player on his phone, Tomlin told his players to get off social media -- all while Brown continued to stream from behind a bank of lockers. 

"Every coach has a different style," said Brady, who recently began using an Instagram account. "Our coach, he's been in the league for 42 years and he's pretty old school. He's not into social media, and I think he lets everyone know that. I think our team has a policy. We don't show anything that should be private because he feels when we are inside our stadium, inside the walls, there has to be a degree of privacy that we have. What's done in the locker room should stay in the locker room."